Home Lessons for Entrepreneurs from World of Warcraft

Lessons for Entrepreneurs from World of Warcraft

When film critic Roger Ebert posted on his blog that “Video Games Can Never Be Art,” he seemed to incur the wrath of the gaming community, and the entry now has over 3,000 comments, many protesting Ebert’s claims. Ebert wonders why the designation of art or not-art matters to those who play video games: “Do they require validation? In defending their gaming against parents, spouses, children, partners, co-workers or other critics, do they want to be able to look up from the screen and explain, “I’m studying a great form of art?” Then let them say it, if it makes them happy.”

Here’s an argument to make gamers happy. According to John Seely Brown, former director of Xerox PARC, massive multiplayer online games demonstrate ways in which groups can manage information and maximize learning. At a recent lecture as part of Stanford University’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series, Brown said that World of Warcraft guilds can serve as models for entrepreneurs in understanding how to succeed in a knowledge-based economy.

Brown urges entrepreneurs to look at WoW for ideas on how to boost information management and performance feedback. Brown points to the guild, the game’s primary organizational structure, as the way you “get things done in World of Warcraft.” Noting that over 12,000 ideas are posted to the official World of Warcraft forums daily, Brown points to the necessity of having a guild in order to process this information. “If your guild is going to be successful,” says Brown, “you have to figure out how to get the members of your guild to process tens of thousands of new ideas.” The guild structure, Brown argues, allows for groups to crowdsource information and to test, filter and disseminate strategies.

The most successful guilds also meticulously record and review their performances. “In terms of extreme performance,” says Brown, “I’ve never seen anything quite like it. World of Warcraft high-end guilds do after-action reviews on every high-end raid.” Brown praises the way in which WoW players have developed their own dashboards so they can constantly measure and adjust their own performance. Brown argues this vigilance around feedback helps WoW players learn exponentially.

With over 12 million World of Warcraft subscribers, chances are WoW is an incubator for future entrepreneurs, whether or not the game is “art.”

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